WASHINGTON (CBS NEWS/AP) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington, D.C., a clear sign that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is ramping up, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The special counsel’s office did not return CBS News’ request for comment.
Grand juries give prosecutors the ability to put witnesses under oath if there is evidence of a crime. Mueller and his expanding team will also have the power to seek indictments and subpoena documents. According to the Journal, the grand jury was convened in Washington several weeks ago. Another grand jury in Virginia is currently investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel,” Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, told the paper. “If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.”
The existence of the grand jury does not mean that Mueller will necessarily bring charges, former federal prosecutor Thomas Zeno told the Journal, but it also shows he is “very serious.”
“He wouldn’t be doing this if it were winding down,” Zeno said.
President Trump has repeatedly called the investigation into Russian interference, and the alleged connections between his campaign and Russian figures, a “witch hunt.”
He has also suggested that he might attempt to fire Mueller, a former FBI director whose investigation falls under the purview of the Department of Justice. In response, Congress is currently considering bills that would make it harder for Trump to fire Mueller.
A lawyer for President Trump says he has no reason to believe the president is under federal investigation amid a media report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is using a grand jury as part of his probe.
Attorney John Dowd said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday that he had no information suggesting that the president himself is under investigation.
Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, also says he had no knowledge of a grand jury. He says such matters are typically secret, and the White House “favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)